The Archbishop of Canterbury has suggested the disgraced Duke of York is “seeking to make amends” as he urged the nation to be more forgiving.
Andrew stepped down from public life after the furore over his friendship with paedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, and paid millions to settle a civil sexual assault case to a woman he claimed never to have met.
He was cast out of the working monarchy and no longer uses his HRH style after Virginia Giuffre, who was trafficked by Epstein, accused him of sexually assaulting her when she was 17. The duke denied the claims.
The Most Rev Justin Welby, in an interview with ITV News presenter Tom Bradby, called on people “to step back a bit” and said the Queen’s second son was seeking to make amends, adding: “I think that’s a very good thing.”
He stressed that he could not tell people how to respond, saying the “issues of the past in the area of abuse are so intensely personal and private for so many”.
The archbishop is no longer delivering the sermon at the Platinum Jubilee service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday after he tested positive for Covid.
Asked how the public should respond to Andrew after his appearance at the Duke of Edinburgh’s memorial service, Mr Welby said: “At a big public occasion the Queen is fully entitled to have one of her children supporting her.
“Secondly, forgiveness really does matter. I think we have become a very, very unforgiving society. There’s a difference between consequences and forgiveness.
“I think for all of us, one of the ways that we celebrate when we come together is in learning to be a more open and forgiving society.
“Now, with Prince Andrew, I think we all have to step back a bit. He’s seeking to make amends and I think that’s a very good thing.
“But you can’t tell people how they’re to respond about this. And the issues of the past in the area of abuse are so intensely personal and private for so many people. It’s not surprising there’s very deep feelings indeed.”
Andrew took a central role in escorting his mother to Philip’s memorial service in March.
It came as a surprise change to the planned arrangements – only weeks earlier he had been banished from royal public life and paid to settle his court case.
The move was taken as a sign of the monarch’s support for her son.
The Archbishop later released a statement in a bid to clarify his comments and said he hoped they would not distract from the Jubilee celebrations.
“In tonight’s interview with ITV News I was asked a question about forgiveness, and I said that there is a difference between consequences and forgiveness,” he said.
“Both are essential elements of the Christian understanding of justice, mercy and reconciliation.
Of course, it's sad when families are struggling, but what family isn't?Archbishop Justin Welby
“I also made the broader point that I hope we can become a more forgiving society. These are complex issues that are difficult to address in a short media interview and I hope they do not distract from this week’s joyful celebration of Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.”
A spokesperson for the Archbishop said he was not referring specifically to the duke when talking about a forgiving society.
“He was making a broader point about the kind of society that he hopes the Platinum Jubilee inspires us to be,” the spokesperson said.
The Queen has a deep Christian faith and is Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
The archbishop is the Church’s most senior figure and the spiritual leader of 85 million Anglicans worldwide.
The duke agreed to make a “substantial donation” to Ms Giuffre’s charity after the pair agreed an undisclosed out-of-court settlement in her civil sex claim against him in February.
In the wide-ranging interview, the archbishop was also asked about the rift between brothers the Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex.
“Of course, it’s sad when families are struggling, but what family isn’t?” he said.
“Jesus says anyone who’s never sinned cast the first stone, and they all go away… I think if there’s any family where the relationships are perfect, they’re entitled to judge, but I’m not going to.”
Ahead of the jubilee weekend, the archbishop said the Queen is “probably the most trusted person in the country” and has been for “many, many years”.
He praised the monarch for her “absolute consistency” during her 70-year reign.
“It is something extraordinary to celebrate and if we go back, 1952 was a pretty rough time for a very large number of people,” he said.
“The Queen has gone from that moment to this moment as the one point of absolute consistency in the life of the nation.
“I think it’s a golden thread that runs through 70 years and to celebrate that is a great thing, I think it will lift people’s spirit.”
The archbishop said about growing demands for Britain to apologise for the past actions of the British Empire: “For the royal family, I think they are very aware of this.
“They show their awareness of it in the way they go about their work. The Commonwealth – it’s no longer the British Commonwealth, it’s the Commonwealth.
“I think that that is the right way to go. It’s to acknowledge the past, examine it honestly, and truthfully dealing with areas that went wrong, but celebrating things that went right and keep going forward.”
The interview will air on Tuesday evening as part of the ITV’s News At Ten bulletin.